March 29, 2010

Empire State College Named to President's Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction

Student Volunteers Make Contributions to Communities as They Learn

(Saratoga Springs, N.Y. – March 8, 2010) State University of New York Empire State College has been named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for demonstrating commitment to volunteerism, civic engagement and service-learning, which connects community service to academic learning.

CNCS CEO Patrick Covington praised the “scope and innovation” of service-learning projects offered by institutions that were honored. Empire State College was one of 115 colleges – 12 in New York state, including one other SUNY institution—that received the designation “with distinction” out of 780 across the nation that applied.

CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its core programs, Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

College students make a significant contribution to the volunteer sector. Last year, 3.16 million American students performed more than 300 million hours of service, Covington said. Empire State College has about 3,600 students enrolled in Community and Human Services (CHS) courses, many of whom perform 20 or more hours per week of volunteer service, according to Joyce McKnight, D.Ed., a mentor/coordinator in CHS, who has overseen hundreds of projects. McKnight, who is based in Saratoga Springs, supervises students who have participated in a variety of activities ranging from advising communities how to find funding to improve their neighborhoods to creating an online support group for individuals with multiple sclerosis.

Other examples of community service-learning abound at Empire State College. At the college’ s Central New York Center, Donna Mahar, Ph.D., assistant professor of English Education and Literacy in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, mentored a student who started an after-school literacy group for middle school girls, where participants discuss independent reading, writing for pleasure, and popular culture and media that influences their lives. Another of her students established a Spanish-language summer camp in upstate New York. The same student traveled to Cuba in 2009 with a group of educators from Canada where she was a liaison for her group and their Cuban hosts, positioning the college as a leader in an international literacy initiative.

Also at the Central New York Center, Dean Deborah Amory, Ph.D., an anthropologist and ordained minister, supervised students who volunteered in a Clinical Pastoral Education Program that trained people to deliver chaplaincy services to patients; one continued on to graduate school in theological studies. As well, Julie Gedro, M.B.A., P.H.R., Ed.D, associate professor of Business, Management and Economics at the Central New York Center, has worked with students to create awareness around issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in the workplace. She has conducted this work through her Diversity in the Workplace studies, as well as her course entitled Selected Topics in HRM: LGBT Issues in the Workplace, offered online through the Center for Distance Learning.

At the Metropolitan Center, Lear Matthews, D.S.W., mentors numerous students in various fields of practice in the human services system in New York City. Students include counselors, case workers, corrections officers, paraprofessionals and adults who are changing careers. Two of his students volunteer as activist/organizers with an immigrant advocacy organization.

Also at the Metropolitan Center, Justin A. Giordano, J.D., M.B.A., a professor of Business and Law in the Business, Management and Economics area of study, mentors a widely diverse group of students, some of whom benefit from his 2009-2010 Arthur Imperatore Community Forum Fellowship grant. The students are completing a video documentary focusing on the New York music scene and on individuals evolving within this field. The project was designed to engage the community, learn about, and highlight the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism found within its population.

Both McKnight and Matthews have received the college’s prestigious Altes Prize for Exemplary Community Service which honors a faculty member who has applied scholarly expertise to address community issues.

Because Empire State College serves adult students who are integrating study into lives that often include work, and civic and family commitments, many already are volunteering in their communities in addition to their course work.

Their activities are “consistent with Empire State College’s vision to support the social, cultural and economic development of its learners and their communities,” said college President Alan R. Davis.

In congratulating the college awardees, Covington pointed out that students are vital in the effort to “ tackle persistent social and community challenges,” especially in an economic downturn.

State University of New York Empire State College offers adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York. Students learn through independent studies, seminars, residencies and online courses. They also may earn credit for prior college-level learning from work and life experience. The college serves more than 19,000 students worldwide with 34 locations in New York state and online. For more information, visit


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